The Botswana Gazette of June 9th, 2010 reports Minister of Communications and Transport, my homeboy, Frank Ramsden as having declared that he does not buy the Sunday Standard newspaper. From the report, it is quite evident makhaya is very angry at the private press. “For your information I don’t even buy the Sunday Standard newspaper because of its negativity towards the government”, he reportedly said this at a BDP press conference held at Maun Lodge recently. He is reported to have also described as unethical of Mmegi newspaper to run a story under the headline: “Vote Moupo”.
I picture him in my mind. He probably was pink-faced at that press conference. He must have been fuming and frothing at the mouth. It’s so strange, yet not surprising, that Ramsden expects the private media to portray his government’s negative deeds as positives. The man needs to be reminded that the media exists to report on what is being said and done and deemed worth public consumption. The role of the media is not to please Ramsden and his colleagues. The media exists to inform the nation of the good, the bad and indeed the ugly that is happening around them. Ramsden and his government appear to have been spoiled by the Daily News which, sadly, is under strict instructions to report only the good side of the government while ignoring the negatives that are in good supply from the government enclave.
I don’t think Sunday Standard publishers will have sleepless nights over Ramsden’s onslaught on their newspaper. The credibility of our private media cannot be gauged on Ramsden’s comments. To me, Ramsden’s comments only managed to expose the extent of his intellect and (in)-tolerance. What influence does Ramsden command in the society that can make us queue after his Sunday Standard boycott?
I watched the USA football team match against some other country in the ongoing World Cup tournament. I thought the referee was biased against the USA. Now imagine if President Barrack Obama had the same view as mine and decided to declare that he will never watch the World Cup because the referees are biased against his country. The influential Obama will be alone in the boycott as Americans and the entire world would continue to watch the World Cup. So really, whether Ramsden reads private newspapers or not should not give us any goose bumps or render us insomniac. He is the one who is missing out and we should not feel sorry when a Cabinet Minister decides to render himself dunderhead by not keeping abreast with current affairs issues through credible newspapers like Sunday Standard.
Let me, for a moment, trivialize Ramsden’s issue. Ramsden never raised a finger when newspapers gave one Alimah Anderson a hard time. I’m reliably informed Ramsden and Alimah have some family links, that is, they are related. Instead of coming to his relative’s rescue Ramsden comes out with guns blazing in defence of government. He elects to attack the private media for writing the truth about his government, in what he blindly and unreasonably calls bias. With Ramsden, Alimah should just forget about blood being thicker than water as the Honourable MP seems to subscribe to: government is thicker than the truth. You can write damning statements and even lies about his relatives and he won’t complain until you get to his government. To him, writing negative stories about government is tantamount to unleashing a war. It is disappointing that Ramsden says the private media is negative towards his government yet he has failed to raise just one positive that the media turned into a negative in their reporting.
The war that Ramsden envisages and brags about should get all of us worried. Why? Right now I’m writing about Ramsden. My weapon against Ramsden and his government is the pen and I’m worried that instead of using the same weapon, the pen, to hit back, Ramsden and his government may choose torture or even the gun to silence us. They have tried to ban government advertising in the past and the Courts of Law ruled against them. What option is left of them? I see torture and bullet and perhaps we should thank Ramsden for alerting us of the impending war. Even though forewarned is forearmed, the only armory we have in the private media is the pen and our ‘soft’ editors while Ramsden’s corner boast of bully security agents who go around armed to the teeth with pistols, showing little regard for sanctity of human life.
It is so scary how the leaders of this country have brainwashed themselves into believing the private media is enemy number one of the government. I sometimes sit and think of all the things that I know, courtesy of the private media. I wonder if Batswana appreciate the role of the private media in this country. I wonder if Batswana are aware that their country has been under good governance mainly because of the checks and balances from the private media. Are we aware that Ramsden and his government hate the private media for the simple reason that they report what Ramsden and his government would rather have kept out of reach of Batswana? It’s quite absurd how Ramsden and his cabinet colleagues always tell Batswana that those who speak against the DIS are the ones who have something to hide yet they don’t agree when we say that those who speak against the private media are the ones who do not want Batswana to know their underhand deals. The DIS will never torture any cabinet minister so it is not surprising that they defend this organ. The private media will always report on the corruption played out by cabinet ministers and it fits well that they hate the private media.
I have always maintained that Frank Ramsden’s strength lies in his silence. As a reserved person who hardly utters a word that carries any political weight, Ramsden has all along managed to conceal his political ineptitude. We have seen and indeed heard Ramsden make statements and most of the time it has been in his official capacity where he reads from a speech prepared by his officials. In his official statements Ramsden always sounds like someone who has a grasp of pertinent issues. His official statements are always laced with reason and sense. Well, it becomes apparent that Ramsden’s official business is safely covered by his Permanent Secretaries and that is why he can give such uninspiring statements when they are not around to choreograph his press statements. But it would seem Ramsden has problems with not just reading the Sunday standard. One local newspaper recently asked him about the fate of BTC’s suspended Chief Executive Officer and his response was that he is till busy touring his constituency and therefore has not read the report. How many hours does he need to read the report and act on it? Well as for me, I could not be bothered whether Ramsden reads or does not read Sunday Standard, Hustler, or Playboy.